Fibromyalgia (FM) is a very common diagnosis I see in my practice. When you look at this diagnosis more closely, you will see that it is actually a collection of symptoms and not a disease in the classical sense. Does this mean we should write-off FM as untreatable, incurable or unsubstantiated? Absolutely not! But people need to understand that the diagnosis of FM really does not give them an underlying cause or reason for their symptoms or even a way to treat them. It just gives them a label for their symptoms.
It has become apparent to me that there are multiple causes for the symptoms related to FM. These causes range from environmental toxicity and stress to diet and lifestyle factors. All of the factors must be addressed to achieve relief of the often debilitating pain, fatigue and other symptoms associated with FM.
Now for the good news and bad news. The good news it that, while this is a complicated process and different for each person, it is possible to decrease and even eliminate these symptoms. The bad new is that there is no magic pill, and it takes as much effort from the one suffering as it does from the health care provider (who must be part sleuth.)
The first system of the body that must be addressed is the digestive system, which is usually not functioning properly. Until you can digest food and absorb nutrients properly, you do not have the nutrients or energy necessary for the healing process, and therefore other treatments are useless. Next, the endocrine or hormonal system must be addressed. Most significant are the thyroid, the adrenal glands (which respond to stress) and the female hormones. The endocrine system also affects most major systems of the body. All of these systems respond very well to nutritional and herbal therapies.
Once the major systems are up and running, the body must be cleansed of toxins through a detoxification program. Unfortunately, we are slowly poisoning ourselves (along with our environment) with our food and all the environmental toxins we are exposed to. According to statistics from the 1997 Toxic Releases Inventory public data release for the EPA Office of Toxic Substances, in one year in the US, 258 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released. That is almost beyond comprehension and could make one ill just thinking about it!
One of the most common things I hear patients say when referring to their symptoms is that it is “just stress”. To say “just” stress is to underrate one of the most significant causes of health problems today. Between high circulating cortisol levels, exhausted adrenal glands and a depressed immune system, stress can have devastating effects on your health.
As a chiropractor, I find that quite often some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia are actually due to subluxations in the spine. Subluxations are misalignments of the spinal joints that are causing nervous system dysfunction. A chiropractic spinal adjustment can balance your skeletal system, boost your immune system and allow your body to respond more appropriately to stress. Many times FM patients are afraid of chiropractic because they fear the treatment will be too painful for a body that is already wracked with pain. Let me reassure you that FM patients respond very well to low force, gentle forms of chiropractic.
Of course no treatment will be effective in the long term unless some significant lifestyle changes are made. Dietary changes are essential, along with gradual, careful introduction of an exercise program, reduction of stressors, incorporating daily methods of relaxation and reducing the toxins in your environment, your drinking water and your food supply. In other words, FM is a warning signal that drastic lifestyle changes are in order if you value your health!